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Bright fruit compote perfect for spring

Recipe: Strawberries shine, raspberries add color to versatile sauce

This is, as they say, a serving suggestion: Strawberry-raspberry compote dresses up cheese blintzes, but could just as easily work on pound cake, ice cream or pancakes.

This is, as they say, a serving suggestion: Strawberry-raspberry compote dresses up cheese blintzes, but could just as easily work on pound cake, ice cream or pancakes. Kathy Morrison

The perfect strawberry is merely washed and eaten over the sink.

It's spring and it's strawberry time, so I hope you all do that at least once this season. 

Berries in a pink bowl
Raspberries for color join fresh strawberries for
a spring compote. Lemon juice will help keep
them bright.

But there are many strawberries that are not quite at that level of perfection, but which can lend their lovely flavor to many spring treats.

This easy recipe is for them.

It's barely a recipe at all, but one worth memorizing for all the fresh-fruit months ahead of us. The list of uses likely is longer than the list of ingredients: Spoon it over ice cream or pound cake or blintzes, stir it into yogurt or whipped cream, pile it onto pancakes or waffles ... you get the idea. It's not too sweet, and there's just a hint of flavoring that lets the strawberries shine.

Beyond deciding whether to go all strawberries or include other berries -- I added a handful of raspberries for color -- the only decision required is how much cornstarch to use. I like a loose, syruplike compote, so stirred in just 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Up to 3 teaspoons of cornstarch is possible, which will make the compote more like strawberry tart filling (ooo, another use!).

Easy berry compote

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients:

4 cups prepared berries, mostly strawberries plus (if desired) raspberries, blueberries and/or blackberries

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 to 3 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 to 1 teaspoon fruity liqueur such as Cointreau or kirsch (optional)

Instructions:

Cut-up strawberries with sugar in a pot
It won't take long for the berries and sugar to cook
down into a delicious compote.

About 1 pound's worth of strawberries will yield 4 cups. They should be washed, hulled and halved or quartered before measuring. Wash and add any other berries desired.

Place the prepared berries and the granulated sugar in a medium saucepan.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together the lemon juice, cornstarch and flavoring(s) until the cornstarch is dissolved. Pour the mixture over the strawberries in the pan and stir gently to combine.

Bring the berries to a quick boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the temperature and simmer until the sauce reaches desired thickness, at least 5 minutes and up to 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before using. Or allow to cool to room temperature and use then, or refrigerate in a closed container until ready to serve. The sauce may thicken more as it cools. Gentle warming, on stove or in microwave, will thin it again.

Note: This compote also can be frozen.

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Garden Checklist for week of June 23

Get to work in the mornings while it’s still cool.

* Irrigate early in the day; your plants will appreciate it.

* Generally, tomatoes need deep watering two to three times a week, but don't let them dry out completely. That can encourage blossom-end rot.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the early hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Avoid pot “hot feet.” Place a 1-inch-thick board under container plants sitting on pavement. This little cushion helps insulate them from radiated heat.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants. Mulch to conserve moisture and reduce heat stress.

* Cut back Shasta daisies after flowering to encourage a second bloom in the fall.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes. 

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

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